Autonomous Vehicles and Freshman Electives

Friday, November 15, 2013 by Emilia Reed


At many colleges it seems like it can be hard for freshman to get into interesting classes. Here at Harvey Mudd, though, there are a number of awesome electives solely designed for freshman. I’m currently enrolled in one such class, E11: Autonomous Vehicles. I started the semester with a toolbox filled with sensors, wires, and other parts, none of it put together. In the past two and a half months I have not only assembled my robot, soldering wires and machining parts, but I’ve also programmed my robot to perform various tasks, such as competing against other robots from the class.

When I started E11 in September I hadn’t had a lot of experience with robotics. This didn’t matter though. The course is taught so that people with any level of robotics and engineering knowledge can come in, learn, and have fun. We meet twice a week for lectures, covering topics like sensors, Gold Codes, and feedback control. Besides this, we have a lab each week that upperclassmen proctors help us work through.  During lab times we have learned how to solder, CADed a chassis, and programmed our robots to move.




The competition this semester takes place on a course with nine beacons. The goal is to have your robot identify which beacons belong to the other team and then taking them for your own team, usually by pushing a button.  Though the main competition is just before Thanksgiving, we had a scrimmage earlier this week! Below is a video of one of the matches:

(We’re making adjustments to improve our robot before the final competition)

Since the start of the semester this class has been one of my favorites. It is a hands-on introduction to robotics, and it has shown me that even with just an Arduino, some motors, and a couple of sensors it is possible to make a robot that can work and adapt to its environment on its own.

Though E11 was the course I chose, there are plenty of other freshman electives for those who prefer chemistry or other subjects. Some of the courses offered this semester included Nanomaterials, Mathematics of Games and Puzzles, Principles of Microeconomics, and Making of England and Britain. There are also plenty of language and other courses offered on the rest of the Claremont Colleges.

If you have any questions about E11, the freshman CORE, or classes in general here at Harvey Mudd, please leave a comment or email me at!